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US stock indexes move higher in early trading, extending market rally into a fourth day

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U.S. stocks edged higher in early trading Monday, extending big gains from last week. Traders monitored the trajectory in oil prices, which have been moving higher from recent lows.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 74 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,879 as of 10:02 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 gained one point, or 0.1 percent, to 2,072. The Nasdaq composite added eight points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,773.

SANTA RALLY: Steadier oil prices have helped stocks continue their pre-Christmas advance, often referred to as a "Santa" rally. Major indexes ended last week on a strong note, finishing higher three days in a row. The Dow and S&P 500 are both up for the month, while the Nasdaq is down.

PHOTO: FILE - This Aug. 9, 2011 file photo shows a Wall Street street sign near the New York Stock Exchange, in New York. U.S. stock indexes are opening mostly higher Monday, Dec. 22, 2014, as the market builds on its big gains from last week. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
FILE - This Aug. 9, 2011 file photo shows a Wall Street street sign near the New York Stock Exchange, in New York. U.S. stock indexes are opening mostly higher Monday, Dec. 22, 2014, as the market builds on its big gains from last week. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

SECTOR WATCH: Eight of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index rose, led by telecommunications services. Health care stocks declined.

EYE ON OIL: European and Asian markets rose on hopes that some stability was emerging in oil markets following a rout that's seen prices slide to five-year lows. Saudi Arabia Petroleum Minister Ali Naimi said Sunday he was certain oil prices would recover with the improvement of the global economy. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 92 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $56.20 a barrel. Oil peaked at $107 a barrel in June but has plunged since then due to weak demand and abundant supplies, especially after Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members agreed to maintain production levels.

OVERSEAS MARKETS: In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent, while Germany's DAX rose 0.7 percent. France's CAC 40 gained 0.3 percent. In Asia, China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6 percent, while South Korea's Kospi added 0.7 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.3 percent, while Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.1 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 spiked 1.9 percent.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices were flat. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.17 percent.

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